A more improbable outcome would have been to hard imagine. No one would have laughed if you’d have bet the farm against it but Team USA Oracle actually pulled off a stunning upset, winning eight straight races in a week of sudden death against a superb New Zealand crew.
It got a little crazy at the Oasis here in Woburn Bay, Grenada as Oracle flew across a huge virtual floating American Flag to cross the finish line to keep the Auld Mug where it belongs.
The Kiwis among us were not amused.
I’m seen here wearing my highly sought after 1992 rally-proven A3 San Diego America’s Cup t-shirt.
The ambiance at the Oasis at the head of Clarkes Court Bay is decidedly…let’s call it funky casual. Several dogs, Lulu the cat, bare feet and as little clothing as possible are de rigeur.
Bob rules the roost here in Woburn from the last stool on the left side of his bar carefully self administering fluids for re-hydration. The only way to watch the America’s Cup races in Clarkes Court Bay is through Bob’s computer wired into the flat screen on the wall behind the bar. It doesn’t hurt that happy hour coincides with the 4:00 o’clock start of the races.
As I say it’s normally rather laid back here at the Oasis but the America’s Cup races have been a bit of a windfall for Bob. I mean 50 to 60 thirsty sailors caught up in the drama every afternoon blindsided him and I heard he nearly ran out of Carib or Stag at first. Cruisers have come out of the woodwork and several look like they really need to get off their boats more often. Many I’ve never seen before and look more like hermits. After each race the dinghies stream out of Clarkes Court Bay Marina and you can tell who pulled for whom by their dinghy language. We are home again aboard Escape Velocity before most of the dinghies stream past us but the last to arrive is always an old gent rowing a dodgy inflatable raft and he yells out a hearty ahoy and proceeds to tell us all about the day’s race as if we weren’t there talking to him the whole time.
The Kiwi contingent, always intense and vocal sportsmen, started strong featuring much flag waving, war chants, and high fives while team USA Oracle was caught cheating in an earlier series and docked two race points right from the get-go. Larry Ellison after all is the sugar daddy of all things Oracle and some would add what could go wrong? Two points is a lot to overcome but what was worse was Oracle’s apparent lack of speed and poor tacking and jibing techniques even though Oracle was said to be the faster boat. Just as Team USA was about to be sent ignominiously packing in a rout with much consternation in the front of the bar, they found some speed, changed their tactician and started to win.
In what can only be called one if the greatest comebacks in the history of sport, one more loss, sudden death day after day and it’s all over, but there they are, still winning. But today it will all end. It’s winner take all.
The boats, if you can call them boats, are 72-foot-long monsters of carbon technology riding up out of the water on elevating foils, sails made like articulating airplane wings as big as a 747.
In short we sailors don’t have a lot in common with these daredevils and to hear the gasps in the bar when a gust catches one of these airborne sleds and sends it heading for what looks for all the world like ass over titters destruction, only underlines their otherworldliness.
Sailboat racing is no longer like watching paint dry, and a sailor is a sailor whether he’s flying through the air at 50 knots or plowing 6 through the water. So we gather all around the world in large and small groups to share the camaraderie and root home our favorites. For sailors this is the World Cup, Super Bowl, and World Series rolled into one.
Here at the Oasis it’s the Kiwis getting more and more quiet and tense gathered around the back of the bar, thankfully with less flag waving, and the Oracles in front nervously peeling the labels on their Presidentes.
Can the Oracles win one more? Eight in a row is as improbable as winning seven in a row so why not? Bob just keeps ordering more beer.
We arrived back at EV late on a Friday night to a country with limited shopping hours on Saturday, none on Sunday and the soonest nearby farmers market not til Monday. Besides, Jack is under strict orders to take it easy for four weeks and I didn’t think either a long walk or a bouncy bus ride would help his recovery. Before we left we ate or gave away all the fresh food in our fridge but we always have a stocked pantry and freezer. Still, that’s a whole weekend of eating what’s on hand. So what’s for Sunday dinner? Pantry Pizza! This despite having pizza three times in 10 days in Miami. We love pizza!
I made fresh dough, used good sauce from a jar and bag of shredded Italian cheese from the freezer. We made two pies and topped them with caramelized onions and garlic, olive tapenade from a jar and Field Roast brand Italian sausage from the freezer. Mighty tasty and enough for lunch on Monday. And by that time, we’d hit the farmers market and now have fresh produce again.
What the hell was that? Not sure what woke me up. Did the bed just give a noticeable roll? Earthquake? Or was I just dreaming? It’s false dawn and there it is again, that sound is piercing my subconscious to the point that I may have to investigate. Ah, it’s a rooster which can only mean that we’re not in Miami any more and we are safe at home aboard Escape Velocity. Instead of falling back to sleep my mind started to go over everything that we’ve been through since we last slept aboard.
You people with your cars, and I’m going to assume that’s most of you, have it so easy. What would have taken us months to accomplish in Grenada, if at all, we were able to wrap-up in a few days of power shopping with our rented Fiat 500 and an awesome number of shopping malls and stores covering just about any want or need, most of which we neither needed nor wanted. It was your basic Blade Runner experience. Large monitors, largely ignored, jabbering away from high above mixed with a strange pastiche of Latin phrases. All we needed was Harrison Ford and Sean Young and plenty of money. Lacking that, we charged!
The level of care at the Cleveland Clinic is amazing, combined with the skill of my doctor who made our crazy schedule work and while I would’ve loved to have skipped this latest roller coaster ride we have the confidence to head out knowing that I’m in good health. Marce’s doctor experience hasn’t been as positive and her arm is as painful as ever. After suggesting that she have an MRI Marce asked her doc if it shows a teeny-tiny hairline fracture what would be the treatment and her doc said. “exactly what you’re doing,” so what is the point, given that we’d have to pay out-of-pocket for it. But they did give her a serious brace with the admonition to not use her arm!
In Miami we stayed with our good friends Nancy & Jeff whose gracious hospitality, concierge service, therapeutic boat rides and timely humor really saved the day.
Kris & Dean on What If stepped in for Mark and watched EV for the entire stay with email notes sent everyday so we didn’t have a moment’s worry about her and when the taxi wended its way down the steep mountain drive to Whisper Cove Marina the headlights revealed Dean waiting to dinghy us across the anchorage to our home, where Kris was waiting with open hatches and lights on. It was as if we never left. And to Laurie from Moana Roa, thanks for the 5:15am ride to Whisper Cove on the day we left Grenada. Can’t thank everyone who helped enough.
Heartfelt thanks for all the well wishes and support, we are back in business. Now let me at all those new boat parts!
We’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for the pathology report, as you can imagine. The doctor called just now to tell us it was negative and Jack’s good to go for a year this time! Woo-hoo! Now we can start to make long term plans. Thanks to everyone for the good wishes and support. It means so much to us.
Tomorrow we fly back to EV so the next 24 hours will be hectic but we’re so excited to be going home.
When Jack had his surgery last March the doctor made us promise to have a follow up examination in six months. We take this kind of thing seriously, especially after what Jack’s already been through.
We planned a quick trip to Miami to visit the Cleveland Clinic for Jack, much-belated annual exams for me, and if we could, a look at my arm, still hurting from the vicious freezer lid attack back in July. Organizing all of this from Lower Woburn, Grenada, wasn’t easy but our friend Nancy in Miami took care of getting my appointments and we managed eventually to communicate our situation to the Cleveland Clinic via Skype.
Deciding what to do with Escape Velocity presented another challenge. Our friend Mark was going to keep an eye on her but he had to go back to England unexpectedly. Should we move to a marina? We ruled that out because we are missing one of the sacrificial zincs on the props and the replacements hadn’t arrived yet. It’s not a good idea to be in a marina with no zinc to protect against stray current. Move to a mooring? Possibility, but why? We’ve got a good hook down in a safe spot so we decided in the end to leave EV where she is. Our friends on What If volunteered to check the bilges and batteries and let some fresh air in when they could and we asked another boat with a clear view of EV to let What If know if we dragged. As long as a hurricane doesn’t head toward Grenada we think we’ll be ok for ten days.
Our flight was at 8am and Laurie from Moana Roa offered to dinghy us to shore at 5:15 so we could meet our taxi to the airport. What kind of crazy person gets up in the middle of the night like that? A good friend, that’s who, just like Marty from True Colors did last March in Fort Lauderdale. We are so grateful to be a part of this caring community.
At the airport, American Airlines was celebrating Grenada as the winner of some customer service award so we had cake for breakfast before boarding the plane.
Once in Miami we suffered serious culture shock with the crowds and the cars and the traffic and the colors and the variety of shopportunities. We picked up a cute little Fiat rental and started a whirlwind of shopping.
Actually we started the shopping in Grenada, ordering parts and hard-to-find items to be delivered to our Miami friends’ address, and when we arrived we found Nancy had gift-wrapped our shipments so it was like Christmas in September.
We quickly knocked off a couple of the medical appointments including another X-ray on my arm — still not broken — and Jack got scheduled for a diagnostic procedure for Thursday afternoon. Good, good, good, we’re thinking. A couple more appointments and we’ll be free to shop and play until next Friday.
But no. Jack’s doctor found another remnant alien that has to be removed surgically. He understands our situation and his office moved heaven and earth to get Jack scheduled for surgery the next day. We raced from department to department for the usual pre-op testing. The doctor’s office called ahead so they were waiting for us, and in one case, stayed past closing time to get it done.
Friday morning I had the appointment for my arm. That doctor suspected a hairline fracture and wanted to do an MRI because two X-rays apparently aren’t enough.
“What’s the treatment if it’s broken?” I asked.
“Same as you’re doing,” he answered. I decided against the expensive MRI and will just be patient until it heals.
We checked Jack back into the hospital at two o’clock. Second day, same as the first, same as last March, same as seven years ago. We’re old hands at this. As ever, the Cleveland Clinic is friendly and efficient and Jack was wheeled into the OR shortly after four o’clock. I went back to the waiting room and realized this was the first time I didn’t have a friend or family member with me while Jack was in surgery. But the Cleveland Clinic has wifi and before long I was texting my sister and Drew on Skype, and posting updates on Facebook. Between the Skype conversations and the Facebook likes and comments I felt as if our whole circle of family and friends was there with us. It was an incredible feeling to experience the outpouring of love and best wishes for Jack in real time and I never once felt alone. Thank you all so much!
After a while the surgeon came out to talk to me, then it was another hour and a half before I could rejoin Jack in recovery. He was already awake and in fine shape and we were back at the hotel by 8 o’clock. We’re hoping Jack’s recovery is easier than last time, and of course we have to wait for the biopsy results, but at least this part is behind us now. Mark and Sue tell us the appropriate phrase is “it’s a sod and a bugger, but there it is.”
We’ve got used to day after day of relentlessly sunny weather with only the occasional brief shower so it was wonderful to have a rare squally day to give the decks a good powerwash and top up the water tank with lovely filtered rainwater.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the ex-pat community when you spend an extended period of time in one place. It’s also interesting to discover the character of the various anchorages. Prickly Bay seems to be mostly American, the kid boats congregate in Hog Island, and our neck of the woods is very international, with English, French, Canadians, Dutch, Australians and South Africans.
As wine drinkers we perked up when we heard it announced on the morning cruisers’ radio net that there would be a wine tasting somewhere up in the mountains where we could watch the sunset and sample wines for sale. We signed up and were delighted to see that our driver was Cutty, the same man who took us on the turtle tour in July. Once again we stopped at all the bays to pick up passengers while Jack and I sat up front with Cutty and got running commentary on the places of interest we passed. I will always be grateful to Cutty for teaching me the difference between sheep and goats, and before you snort with laughter let me inform you that here they look exactly alike. I thought they were all goats but Cutty pointed out that goats have a short tail that sticks up and sheep have a longer tail that hangs down. That’s it. If you want to know if it’s a sheep or a goat you have to look at their bums.
We drove through a town called Grand Mal and up a steep road to our destination, a beautiful house in Fontenoy, overlooking the setting sun.
It turns out that our hostess is the honorary consul for Germany who doubles as an importer of South African wines — go figure — and we spent a pleasant evening on a lovely balcony tasting six of her offerings and watching the sun go down. It was a very Graham Greene experience.
I knew right away the news wasn’t good. Our friend Sue had been home in England for much of the summer caring for elderly parents and in the last few days things had deteriorated. I texted Mark across the anchorage as soon as I awoke and he texted back immediately, “I’ll be over shortly.” It was 6 am. I put the coffee on and expected the worst. When Mark arrived a few minutes later he confirmed Sue’s dad had died during the night and he was bound for England on the evening flight.
We had coffee while Mark ran through the options. He would have to leave their boat somewhere safe in Grenada in the middle of hurricane season, not knowing how long he’d be gone and not knowing what the weather will be in the coming weeks. Grenada is “outside the box,” meaning it’s outside the usual path of Atlantic storms, but it does occasionally get hit, most recently in 2004 by Ivan.
This is the downside to cruising. We are by nature drawn to out-of-the-way places, many times completely out of touch and often in areas difficult and expensive to travel from. Here in Grenada there are only two flights a week to England. Had Mark missed Tuesday’s flight he’d’ve either had to wait until Sunday or island-hopped to a bigger island with more options. It’s scary to leave your boat no matter what the circumstances. You can have it hauled out of the water and blocked on land in a marina; you can leave it in the water at a marina at a dock; you can leave it on a mooring or at anchor. All of the options are risky in their own way. It all depends on the boat, the location, the facilities, how long you’ll be gone and what your insurance will cover.
Mark decided to move the boat to a marina but moored, not side-tied to a dock. Boats don’t like being tied to a dock; they prefer to roll with the wind and waves. He was happy with this option, and he had eight hours to move the boat and close it up. Within minutes of talking to the marina Mark had a plan and we all set to work. He directed us well as we stowed the dinghy, motored around to the next bay and up to the marina, removed all the sails and other canvas, then moved the boat to its temporary home and adjusted the mooring lines until Mark was satisfied.
Once the boat was secure and the systems were shut down all that was left were the usual things you do when you leave home — clean out the fridge, do the dishes, take out the trash, tidy up. Mark is the Energizer bunny and worked full speed until it was time to ferry him to shore for a taxi to the airport to begin the 18-hour journey.
They say sailing is 95% boredom and 5% sheer panic and sometimes the panic comes from events thousands of miles away. It’s our biggest fear as cruisers that something will happen to a loved one far away and we’ll be unable to get there in time or at all. It’s a reminder to cherish every moment you have together while you can, and know that your loved ones are happy that you’re following your dreams.